PUBLISHED: Distances: “A dam’d good book”

Well, I suppose I’m now another “unemployed” author – at least until I decide to start on the next novel:

TheBigDay

So that’s that. PUBLISHED. Another year of work completed.

The back and front covers for "Distances" - the print version.
The back and front covers for “Distances” – the print version.

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“Boo! I’m you, but not you!”

Recently on About.me, a man who identified himself as a “ghostwriter” viewed my profile. I’m not in need of one of those. Nevertheless, it prompted me to think on what “ghostwriting” means in terms of you as “the author.”

“Ghostwriters” have always been around, of course. Bookstores and Amazon are awash with books written by someone other than “the author.” And we as readers don’t seem to mind.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a ghost costume.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a ghost costume.

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Have You Ever Read Emerson?

Little new to report on my mother’s cancer. The hospice people come in and out of my parents’ house, checking on her, and offering what help and support they can. I don’t think I need to say that it is emotionally devastating to be able to do nothing but sit by and watch your mother – in a hospital bed positioned in her former dining room – so sick and slowly fading away before your eyes.

The best way I can describe how it feels to care for someone you know inevitably will die? It is a sense of being completely trapped. You know that no matter what you do, ultimately it will be futile.

Yes, sometimes there are smiles, but all you see ahead of you is darkness. Your days are spent knowing you will be clearing up urine again. Or you will try to get her to roll over on her side to avoid bedsores. Or you will slip the nebulizer mask over her nose to try to help her breathe a little easier. Or you hope she’ll eat something.

You look for a way to divert your thoughts when you can manage it. I happened to notice that my mother keeps some of my late grandfather’s books shelved in a lounge cabinet. He was an avid reader and had a wide collection I’d always admired. I have a few of his books already, but what I don’t have is the series of “great literature” that was beautifully hardback published in – wait for it – 1936:

“Emerson’s Essays,” published by the Spencer Press, 1936. [Photo by me, 2015.]

Among the 20 volumes is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays. I had never read Emerson extensively, but find I spend the evenings with it. Reading works like those causes you as a writer to sit back and lament, “What could I possibly hope to write about anything that would even fractionally add to, or build upon, the likes of this?”

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Goodbye, Uncle

While sitting here in Pennsylvania, going back and forth to the hospital, trying somehow to deal with my mother’s deteriorating condition, we received another devastating blow: my uncle (my mother’s older brother), the novelist, died yesterday in Rhode Island.

Free Stock Photo: A cross before a cloudy sunset sky.
Free Stock Photo: A cross before a cloudy sunset sky.

He was 75. He was also my godfather. (Although, as I learned only in my early twenties, organized religion was not exactly his thing.) He had been in declining health for some time, yet somehow also seemed “indestructible.” His end came quickly and unexpectedly.

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Our Censorious Era (“How dare you write that”)

Following on from that post the other day on For Such a Time, I’ve read here and there about accusations of “racism,” “privilege,” and “Western cultural arrogance” in “romance” and “young adult” literature. That’s not an easy subject to address in a blog post. However, authoring as I do for adults (and not for children), I just wanted briefly to note my view. (Separately, I’ve already addressed the issue of an author spewing hatred while “hiding” behind his/her characters.)

Naturally, not every novel by every writer is going to be fantastic. Still it is chilling to read anything that even vaguely argues authors should be wary about exploring characters who aren’t much like themselves. That could lead, in itself, to writers becoming fearful of trying to create what could be some truly worthwhile literature.

Free Stock Photo: Group of business workers.
Free Stock Photo: Group of business workers.

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Ultimately, It’s About “Forever”

Other than writing blog posts, I’ve had my head buried in Distances over the last few days. I’m getting bleary eyed. If I find another stupid typo, I may lose it.

Desperately needing breaks, I’ve tried now and then also to read (catch up with, may be more accurate) some blogs. The other day, I happened on this from Kate Colby:

You are probably not the next Hemingway, either (and that is STILL okay!)

And she’s absolutely right, of course. Yet that’s also a relief. For that’s actually fine by me.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of antique books on a white background.
Free Stock Photo: Close-up of antique books on a white background.

Why?

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Future Academics Will Find Lots Less Paper

Good morning. This might be called PART II to yesterdays’s post:

Screen capture of title of yesterday's post.
Screen capture of title of yesterday’s post.

That retired English literature professor’s disdain for “social media” embraced by “young people” led me to thinking. How much has changed in novel writing over the last few generations. One aspect of such change has zero to do with annoying kids insisting on using Twitter on holiday when, AS WE ALL KNOW, they should be sitting on Bournemouth Beach immersed in The Great Gatsby.

“The Great Gatsby” first edition cover, 1925. From Wikipedia.

I don’t write my novels longhand. True, there is nothing new in someone doing that of course. We know typing has been around for over a century.

But a typewriter is just another form of physical writing. What’s changed in the last two generations is increasingly everything is on computers. And those computers are becoming ever more sophisticated.

As you may know, I’ve been proofing the Distances manuscript using a Word file emailed to my Kindle. (The last part of that sentence would’ve totally baffled F. Scott Fitzgerald.) I’m not inking out lines and words and scribbling in planned changes above them or in the margins and handing those changes to my devoted secretary…. who is invariably a lovely, ever-helpful woman who works for close to nothing because I can barely pay her, and she can type, because, being a man, as you know I’m a pathetic typist….

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“You kids….and get off my lawn too!”

In a world full of young adult fiction readers who are also “social media” users, who could seriously argue the likes of Twitter are destroying novel reading among the young? For the two streams of entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive: reading a novel is one thing, while networking and socializing is another. Most people can walk and chew gum at the same time.

However, this retired English literature professor lumps them together:

Screen capture of the Daily Mail.
Screen capture of the Daily Mail.

His summation of novels in single tweets is amusing. However, his tweets are obviously not replacements for reading the full novels themselves. That said, I’ve also never seen the issue positioned before in that thrown back on itself manner.

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“He said THAT? And she said THAT?”

I have literally awoken at times around 3am, my mind for some reason fixating on some plot point or statement. I wonder, “Did I leave *that* out? Did she say that?” It’s a sick feeling that can ruin a night’s sleep.

So far – luckily – whenever I have had that happen, on frantic double-checking I discover everything is fine, and I breathe out. When writing a series, you need a perfect memory. You can’t miss a thing, because even a minor oversight or “misremembering” a tiny “fact” from earlier can prove pretty embarrassing later on.

[Selfie, 2015.]
[Selfie, 2015.]
I’ve been rereading Passports at length over the last few days. It’s the first time I’ve done so in at least a year. As I do, I’m finding I’m also struck by how the books are “evolving” from that opener.

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“There never will be anything more interesting in America than that Civil War never.”

Following the murders of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina, old social media photographs of the white supremacist arrested for it naturally surfaced almost immediately. In one, he’s wearing jacket patches of the apartheid South Africa flag and the white minority government Rhodesia flag. In another, he’s posing on a car displaying the Confederate States of America emblem.

His embrace of the latter has revived arguments inside the U.S. about the post-Civil War tacit understanding under which the United States became one country again:

Screen capture of Vox.
Screen capture of Vox.

That Vox piece is the sort of thing that leads one to wonder if supposedly well-educated members of the media have ever read a serious history book?

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